OVERVIEW: The Gordon and Llura Gund Foundation supports medical research, mostly related to blindness. Giving is diverse, though, with significant grants for autism, cancer, and other diseases.
IP TAKE: The couple’s annual giving is not too far behind that of the more prominent George Gund Foundation, but flies way under the radar, with no staff or public guidelines. Still, in most years, they give grants every year ranging from the thousands to the millions, with a preference for disease research.
PROFILE: The Gund name is well known in philanthropy circles, especially in the Midwest. When wealthy banker and investor George Gund passed away in the 1960s, he endowed his foundation with more than half a billion dollars, creating one of the more weighty and active philanthropies in the region, now giving mostly to arts, education and the environment. The Gund family has carried on the tradition of giving, with a dozen or so foundations bearing the name.
While dwarfed by the elder Gund Foundation’s trust, son Gordon Gund is giving dad a run for his money. Through two foundations, the Gordon and Llura Gund Foundation and the Gordon and Llura Gund 1993 Charitable Foundation, the couple has given notable support to medical research, the environment, the arts and various other community and humanitarian causes. Gordon and wife Llura are signatories to the Giving Pledge.
It would be impossible to discuss the man or his philanthropy without noting the fact that in 1970, at age 30, he lost his sight to retinitis pigmentosa. Since then, he and Llura have been heavily active in research on blindness and eye diseases. In 1971, they established the Foundation Fighting Blindness (formerly the Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation), and the organization represents by far their largest philanthropic cause. Every year, the foundations give millions to the organization (and other blindness groups to a lesser extent).
The other big cause for the Gunds is autism research. While it’s not clear if there’s another personal connection here, the couple gives a lot to this issue. Specifically related to science research, smaller grants have supported a variety of medical research causes including Lyme disease, cystic fibrosis, and stem cell research.
While that may be a good sign for those seeking funds, the bad news is that the foundations are about as black as the boxes get. They seem to be almost purely the work of the couple and their philanthropic interests. Neither foundation has staff, and the larger of the two has only two trustees—the Gunds themselves. There are no public guidelines or procedures, and the only record of giving appears to be in tax filings.
Accessing the foundations will require significant networking and calling upon cheerleaders with some connection to the couple. But the sheer size of the couple’s annual giving means they should absolutely not be overlooked, particularly for those working in blindness or autism.
- Gordon Gund, Trustee and Donor
- Llura Gund, Trustee
Gordon and Llura Gund Foundation
14 Nassau Street
Princeton, New Jersey 08542